© nationaltheatret beklager / YouTube
Tel Aviv has urged the National Theatre of Norway to deny links to and remove a video in which a fake theater official called for a boycott of Israel and its HaBima Theater. The Norwegian theater denied its part but stopped short of criticizing the clip.
While the theater apparently had no role in producing the video, the Israeli Foreign Ministry demanded that it should “clearly and immediately repudiate” the clip, as well as take “necessary measures to have the video removed from every site.”
It went on to compare the video to “the works of the Reich Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, or the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl,” adding that it is “actively pursuing the matter with all involved parties.”
In response, the National Theater of Norway wrote in a statement published on its website that it was in no way part of making the video, and does not engage in boycotts.
“The article and video are not made by The National Theater of Norway – and do not represent The National Theater of Norway’s attitude – they are an expression of artistic freedom. The National Theater of Norway still has greater faith in collaboration with artists across national borders and from regimes we are critical to, than boycotts and silence,” it wrote.
Although the six-minute video claims to be from the National Theater of Norway, it was actually created by a group of actors from the art project “Monsters of Reality,” which is part of the 2016 International Ibsen Festival.
In the video, a person claiming to be a spokesperson for the theater lashes out against Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territories. She apologizes on behalf of the playhouse, for collaborating with Israel’s HaBima Theater between 2013 and 2015.
“This is a great day for the National Theater of Norway. It is the day when we publicly apologize for our shameful collaboration with HaBima, the national theater of Israel…” the spokesperson says.
She goes on to state that when the theatre agreed to collaborate with Israel, it did not know “what a powerful role HaBima and other Israeli art institutions play in normalizing the Israeli occupation,” calling Israeli art a “tool” for building an image of “a humanistic nation” instead of an “apartheid state.”
She claims the two theatres were collaborating as Israel “executed its horrific bombing over the Gaza strip,” and that the Norwegian one was unaware of HaBima’s alleged role because it did not do “one single piece of research…we didn’t bother to find out.”
“Five-hundred Palestinian children lost their lives while HaBima was busy entertaining Israeli soldiers,” she says.
In conclusion, the woman posing as spokesperson makes three promises on behalf of the theatre. The first is that it will fully support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) of Israel, and cancel its membership with the “politically irresponsible” European Theatre Union.
Next, the spokesperson claims the theatre will dedicate all means of production to “work with the situation in the Middle East” from 2017 to 2019. She even promises that the facility’s director will give 50 percent of her salary to Palestinian theatre in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement works to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law,” according to the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s website.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused world football’s governing body FIFA of “tarnishing the beautiful game” by allowing “games on stolen land”.
In a report published on Sunday, HRW said that FIFA was legitimizing the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank—considered illegal under international law—and was sponsoring business activity that supports the settlements.
The New York-based body urged FIFA to force six Israeli football clubs based in settlements in the West Bank to relocate from occupied territories or be banned from competitions recognized by football’s governing body.
The six clubs in question are located in the West Bank and play in the lower Israeli leagues—Beitar Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Ironi Ariel, Ironi Yehuda, Beitar Ironi Maale Adumim and Hapoel Bik’at Hayarden.
The report follows an online petition that has gained more than 150,000 signatures, calling for FIFA official Tokyo Sexwale—who is heading up FIFA’s investigation into the issue—to ban settlement clubs from FIFA-recognized competitions.
More than 60 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also sent an open letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino earlier in September, calling for the settlement clubs to be relocated or excluded from the Israeli Football Association (IFA).
FIFA’s rulebook states that football clubs that are a member of one football association may not play on the territory of another football association without the other association’s permission. The Palestinian Football Association has been recognized by FIFA since 1998.
“By holding games on stolen land, FIFA is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” said Sari Bashi, ‘Israel’ and Palestine country director at HRW.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Republican nominee Donald Trump during a meeting in New York on September 25, 2016. (photo via @IsraeliPM)
Republican nominee Donald Trump promises Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the state of Israel” if he emerges victor in the US 2016 presidential election.
The meeting at the Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, on Sunday took nearly 90 minutes as Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, Jared Kushner, was on hand for the meeting along with Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.
“A Trump administration would finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the state of Israel,” the Trump campaign said in a press release.
The two talked about “the special relationship between America and Israel and the unbreakable bond between the two countries.”
Trump asserted that the US military aid to Israeli missile system is “an excellent investment for America,” further calling Tel Aviv a “vital partner” in the war against “Islamic terrorism,” from which the Israelis have “suffered far too long.”
On the agenda at the meeting was also the nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers, including the United States.
Trump described East Jerusalem al-Quds, occupied by Israel since 1967, as “the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”
Trump’s statement was devoid of any reference to Israel’s heavy-handed crackdown in Palestine or even the so-called two –state solution, pursued in the foreign policy of the administration of President Barack Obama.
“The meeting concluded with both leaders promising the highest level of mutual support and cooperation should Mr. Trump have the honor and privilege of being elected president of the United States,” concluded the statement.
East Jerusalem al-Quds was occupied in 1967 and Israel later annexed it heedless of international condemnations.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers the occupied West Bank, views the city as the capital of its future state. Palestinians have also resisted numerous Israeli plans for exerting full control over the territory.
The United States should turn into the world’s “policeman” as it alone has the potential to find solutions to the challenges the international community is facing, former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an article.
“From my former positions as prime minister of Denmark and secretary-general of NATO, I know how important American leadership is… The world needs such a policeman if freedom and prosperity are to prevail against the forces of oppression, and the only capable, reliable and desirable candidate for the position is the United States,” Rasmussen wrote in the article published by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Rasmussen noted that the world in now facing a number of challenges, including the collapse of Libya, Ukrainian crisis, rise of China and North Korea’s nuclear program.
“In this world of interconnections, it has become a cliche to talk about the ‘global village.’ But right now, the village is burning, and the neighbors are fighting in the light of the flames,” Rasmussen stressed, adding that the world needs “a policeman” to restore the order and “a firefighter” to find solutions to various conflicts.
From Rasmussen’s point of view, only the United States could play these roles.
“Because of all world powers, America alone has the credibility to shape sustainable solutions to these challenges… This is not simply about means. It is also about morality. Just as only America has the material greatness to stop the slide into chaos, only America has the moral greatness to do it – not for the sake of power, but for the sake of peace,” Rasmussen said.
He pointed out that US President Barack Obama’s reluctance to lead the world destabilized the situation in the international arena.
“American isolationism will not make the US and other freedom-loving countries safer and more prosperous, it will make them less so and unleash a plague of dictators and other oppressors. Above all, American isolationism will threaten the future of the rules-based international world order that has brought freedom and prosperity to so many people,” Rasmussen outlined.
Rasmussen was Denmark’s prime minister from 2001 to 2009 and NATO’s secretary general between 2009 and 2014.
… It’s not applicable to Palestine
Seems our politicians, on both sides of the Atlantic, are under instructions to drop the J-word from their vocabulary. I mean J-for-Justice, conspicuously missing from any discussion about Middle East peace and, more specifically, an end to the hell in the Holy Land.
Only the other day at Westminster a parliamentary question was put to the Secretary of State for International Development asking what assessment had been made of the effectiveness and value for money of the UK’s aid assistance to the Palestinian Territories.
It was answered by Rory Stewart who repeated the tired mantra: “The UK remains committed in its support for a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.” Justice doesn’t come into it, and the Palestinians only merit a viable state while we must ensure Israel enjoys the added comfort of safety and security.
Here in the UK Her Majesty’s Opposition – the Labour Party – is still in self-desruct mode waging a civil war instead of doing its official job of holding the Government to account at this critical time. Jeremy Corbyn, elected leader only a year ago and given a rough ride by most of his MPs ever since, is facing a challenge by Owen Smith. The result is due in a few days. In the meantime Smith has been questioned on his views about the Israel-Palestine conflict and claims to be a Friend of Palestine, stating:
I strongly support a viable peace process based on internationally recognised (1967) borders…. I voted to recognise a Palestinian state in 2014 as an essential step towards to realising a two-state solution. I recognise that, ultimately, this can only be achieved by both sides sitting down together, with equal status, negotiating in good faith and making some difficult compromises. Peace is not something that can be imposed on either the Israelis or Palestinians by force or diktat…. I am not convinced that a boycott of goods from Israel would help to achieve a negotiated peace settlement.
OK, but how is “equal status” to be achieved when one party, not noted for its “good faith” and armed to the teeth, has a gun to the other’s head and illegally occupies the land? There can be no peace without justice, Owen. And, in this case, there can be no justice without the enforcement of international law and UN resolutions. The time for negotiation is after Israel withdraws behind the internationally-recognised 1967 (armistice) lines, not before. And until the international community is prepared to force Israel to toe the line BDS is a perfectly peaceful and legitimate means of persuasion by an increasingly disgusted civil society.
Denied their homes
Then there’s the thorny issue of the Right of Return. Both sides claim it – the Jews after being evicted by the Romans in 135AD and the Palestinians after being forced out by Jewish terror and illegal occupation since 1947 (although Israel nowadays pretends most of them left vuluntarily).
Jews can return even if they or their ancestors were never there in the first place, while Palestinians cannot even if they still have the deeds and keys to their properties and even though their right of return is guaranteed by international law and a raft of humanitarian conventions. Palestinians have a claim to citizenship, financial compensation and in some cases their former homes in what is today called Israel. They also claim self-determination, sovereignty over Jerusalem and the right to establish an independent Palestinian state. The Israelis disagree, as this would spoil the exclusive Jewish character of their new state. The world’s solemn guarantee to the Palestinians has so far proved worthless.
It is sensible that any right of return only applies within a reasonably short time after the circumstances causing unjust exile have ceased. Most Jews expelled from Palestine by the Romans chose not to return when the Roman Empire collapsed and it became safe to go back. No civil or biblical law allows them to suddenly claim such a right 1600 years and 70 generations later. Nor does the myth that God gave them the land of Palestine exclusively and in perpetuity wash. So the Israelis have done what Israelis do and written their own special law… and enforced it at the Palestinians’ expense.
But the right of Palestinians forced to flee into one of the numerous refugee camps has not expired. Returning to their homes is key to a just peace but we hear little about it these days. The UN charts the organisation’s high-sounding but always feeble attempts to deal with the many injustices… how, in 1974, the General Assembly reaffirmed the “inalienable rights” of the Palestinian people to “self-determination, national independence and sovereignty, and to return to their lands and homes”… how, the following year, the General Assembly established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People… how, in 1983, the International Conference on the Question of Palestine adopted the Geneva Declaration to oppose and reject “the establishment of settlements in the occupied territory and actions taken by Israel to change the status of Jerusalem”.
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention makes it clear that an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. The International Criminal Court, set up in 1998, regards such practice as a war crime. But because Israel, along with Iraq and the US, didn’t sign up to the ICC it has felt free to carry on with its squatter programme.
Let’s not call them settlements. Genuine settlers come in friendship and with consent. But Israeli settlers are mostly hardline religious squatters on stolen land who support their own government’s use of violence against Palestinian civilians. Their settlements are usually fortified colonies with army back-up. They may appear heroic in Israeli eyes but are offensive to the Palestinians and a breach of international understanding of what constitutes acceptable behaviour.
Buying time for more of the same
The chances of Israel doing the decent thing without coercion is vanishingly small. According to historian Benny Morris no mainstream Zionist leader has been able to conceive of future co-existence without a clear physical separation between the two peoples. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, is reported to have said: “With compulsory transfer we have a vast area (for settlement)… I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it.”
On another occasion he remarked: “If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. We have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it is true, but 2,000 years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country.”
General Moshe Dayan, hero of the Six Day War (1967), made it known to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories that “you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes, may leave, and we shall see where this process will lead.” So heroic.
“When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” So said the then chief of staff of the Israeli Defence Force, Rafael Eitan, in 1983.
That’s the kind of mentality the Palestinians are up against.
As things stand Israel has nearly succeeded in its long-term goal of making the Occupation permanent, thanks to the international community’s pathetic failure to force Israel to abandon its evil and unlawful plan. Any proposed solution, says ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), must now answer these questions:
- Will it really end the Occupation, or is it once again merely a subtle cover for control?
- Does it offer a just and sustainable peace, or merely an imposed and false quiet?
- Does it offer a Palestinian state that is territorially, politically and economically viable, or merely a prison-state?
- Does it effectively address the refugee issue?
- Does it offer regional security and development?
There is no indication on the ground that Israel is willing to hand back enough land and relinquish enough control for a truly viable Palestinian state to emerge. Quite the opposite. And the US’s latest gift to Israel of $38 billion in military aid allows the Zionists to “forever avoid a meaningful peace deal”, as Grant F Smith says.
So how can a sensible two-state solution be possible? And isn’t all this idle talk of two states and more designed-to-fail negotiations simply designed to buy time for the regime in Tel Aviv to carry on occupying and annexing until they have their ‘Greater Israel’ and provoke Armageddon?
The Syria Solidarity Movement unequivocally condemns and denounces the vicious US bombing attack on the Syrian army defending Deir ez-Zour, and we wish to make the following observations.
- The attack killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers and wounded more than 100. This is larger than the number of casualties inflicted in any US bombing on any terrorist target in Syria since the US announced its “war on ISIS”.
- The bombing inflicted no known casualties on ISIS, which the US says was its intended target.
- The US has produced no evidence that it notified its Russian counterparts, as required by agreement. In fact, joint action against ISIS was not expected for another two days. This leads to suspicions that the US attack was intended to preempt the provisions of the agreement.
- Syrian soldiers report seeing reconnaissance drones the previous day.
- ISIS fighters were poised to begin fighting the Syrian army units as soon as the US bombing raids ended. How did they know what constituted the end of the bombing?
- Although the Russian military presence in Syria is legal because it came at the invitation of the sovereign Syrian state, the US presence is illegal and was never approved, either by the Syrian government or by the United Nations. All US military actions in Syria therefore constitute an illegal invasion of Syrian territory, and must end now.
We find the US explanation of “unintended” targets, and especially the belligerent performance of Ambassador Samantha Power at the United Nations Security Council, to be false, disingenuous and counterproductive. The only credible explanation is that the US attack on Deir ez-Zour was intentional. The US has never seriously tried to fight ISIS other than to defend Kurdish fighters, with rare and largely ineffectual attacks against ISIS fighters in their strongholds, and none during the ISIS campaign against Palmyra, when they were very vulnerable by air.
We believe that the US intention is to dismember the sovereign Syrian state, and that the Syrian army base at Deir ez-Zour constitutes an obstacle to this plan, and is therefore a US target. In accordance with this plan, the US does not mind if ISIS continues to occupy a large portion of the Syrian Euphrates valley, and, in fact, prefers to maintain ISIS as a destructive force that weakens Syria and is available as a proxy fighting force for other US regional designs, in partnership with their Israeli allies.
We are doubtful that the US intends to honor its agreement with Russia, and implicitly with Syria. US strategists are seeking to weaken and threaten Russia and not to form cooperative and mutually beneficial agreements. Accordingly, the only option may unfortunately be to make the cost to the US too high to be acceptable, and thereby to force a change in its priorities.
There is another and more constructive alternative, as follows.
- The US should immediately issue a formal apology to the government of Syria and offer restitution for damages, both to the Syrian government and to the families of the dead and wounded.
- The US should withdraw completely from all Syrian territory and end its support for all fighting forces there.
- The US should enforce its end user agreements on the use of its arms supplied to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other countries, to prevent their use in non-defensive roles outside their territories, and in particular to prevent supplying them to subversive forces in Syria.
- The US should use its influence in international banking and commerce to prevent the transfer of funds to terrorist forces in Syria and to prevent illegal trafficking by terrorists of oil and other Syrian assets from terrorist-held territory.
- The US should try to develop a new and cooperative relationship with Russia, and to stop threatening Russia through its subversive actions in Syria, Ukraine and other places, including the stationing of bases and troops in countries on Russia’s borders. The US should end its commercial and financial sanctions against Russia and Syria.
- The US needs to take action to end the internal bickering within its own government. International diplomacy is impossible when agreements negotiated by diplomats are undermined by other governmental agencies. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and other US government figures should be fired for insubordination and replaced with figures that allow the administration to speak with a single voice and so that negotiated agreements can be assured of implementation.
The Syria Solidarity Movement advocates respect for and compliance with all international law, prosecution of international outlaws, an end to attempts to strengthen one country by destroying others, the use of diplomacy to settle international disputes, and the development of peaceful and constructive relationships among all nations. We hold these goals to be of the utmost priority at the present moment because, given the level of escalation to which the USA has pushed a confrontation with Russia (and China) over Syria, Ukraine, and the South China Sea, the threat to world peace has never been higher since 1939.
Syria Solidarity Movement was founded in 2013 to counter misinformation about Syria and to promote peace, reconciliation and justice.
Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement “the new face of terrorism” in New York on Sunday.
Speaking at the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in New York, Shaked said, “The BDS is illegitimate. I define it thus: BDS is another branch of terrorism in the modern age.”
The BDS movement is a global campaign to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land through the boycott of Israeli goods and services, the divestment of funds and, in theory, sanctions.
Shaked claimed that the aim of the BDS movement was to “to wipe Israel off the map.”
As the decade-long movement gains momentum, Israel has pushed back against it with increasing determination.
“Sometimes the BDS movement’s funding sources are identical to those funding the terrorist organisations,” Shaked told the New York crowd. “This is the new face of terrorism.”
Shaked, a conservative member of Israel’s government who does not believe in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, has made controversial statements in the past.
In, 2014 she was accused of inciting genocide with a Facebook post which quoted a Jewish settler, “They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
Shaked reminded the crowd about 9/11, and said that the terrorism which has taken place in Jerusalem, New York, Paris, Tel Aviv, London, Brussels, Istanbul “is the same terrorism.”
The minister went on to tell the crowd that Israel and the rest of the world are all “fighting against extreme Islamic terrorism.”
The justice minister expressed concern that young Jewish people are “confused and are led astray” by BDS, claiming that they are being tricked by “terrorists from radical Islam.”
She congratulated states in the US that have adopted legislation against BDS and expressed hope that others would follow suit and make BDS illegal.
Buthaina Shaaban, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
A senior adviser to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has accused US-led coalition forces of carrying out “intentional” airstrikes against a Syrian military airbase in Dayr al-Zawr province, where 90 soldiers were killed.
Buthaina Shaaban said in an interview with AFP on Sunday, “None of the facts on the ground show that what happened was a mistake or a coincidence.”
The Syrian official also blamed Washington and its allies for colluding with the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in the region.
“Everything was calculated and Daesh knew about it … Even Russia reached the terrifying conclusion that the United States is colluding with Daesh,” Shaaban stated, adding, “When Daesh advanced, the raids stopped.”
The coalition aircraft, purportedly fighting Daesh in Syria, bombed the airbase on Saturday. At least a hundred soldiers were also injured.
Two F-16 and two A-10 jets entered the Syrian airspace from Iraq to conduct the attacks.
The US military says it halted the raids after Russian officials said the targets were Syrian government forces and not Daesh terrorists.
Elsewhere in her remarks, Shaaban said since the US-led intervention began in Syria in 2014, “We have been saying that this is not against Daesh, that they are not striking Daesh.”
The so-called coalition has been conducting the airstrikes in Syria without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate.
Many have criticized the ineffectiveness of the raids.
Washington and some of its regional allies have supported Takfiri groups fighting against Syria’s government.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry has called on the UN Security Council to condemn the attacks and to make the US respect Syria’s sovereignty.
US airstrikes jeopardize ceasefire
Shaaban said such attacks could endanger a US-Russia brokered ceasefire deal meant to end hostilities in the conflict-ridden Arab country.
She added that Damascus believed the Saturday raids may signal divisions within the US administration on deepening cooperation between Washington and Moscow under the truce deal.
“What is worrying is its (the strikes’) effect on the US-Russia agreement. I believe that some elements in the United States do not want this deal,” Shaaban said, adding, “There is a side that agrees with the Russians and another side that rejects the agreement. This makes it seem to us that the White House wants this agreement while the Pentagon rejects it.”
However, Shaaban said Damascus was committed to the existing truce. “We are committed to the truce. The truce is continuing until its expiration. Maybe it will be extended, maybe there will be another agreement.”
On September 9, Russia and the United States agreed on a milestone deal on the crisis in Syria after marathon talks in the Swiss city of Geneva.
The deal, which went into effect on September 12 and was initially agreed to last seven days, calls for increased humanitarian aid for those trapped inside the embattled northwestern city of Aleppo.
Under the terms of the ceasefire agreement, Russian and US fighter jets would launch joint airstrikes against Daesh.
The US’ sudden attempt to “help” the Syrian army fighting ISIS in the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor, which resulted in a strike that killed and injured dozens of soldiers, does not look like an honest mistake, Russia’s UN envoy told journalists at the UNSC meeting.
“It is highly suspicious that the United States chose to conduct this particular air strike at this time,” Russia’s ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.
Churkin questioned why the US suddenly chose to “help” the Syrian army defend Deir ez-Zor after all these years, recalling how American forces just observed terrorists’ movements and did “nothing when ISIS advanced on Palmyra.”
“It was quite significant and not accidental that it happened just two days before the Russian-American arrangements were supposed to come into full force,” Churkin added.
Vitaly Churkin spoke to journalists after briefly leaving the closed-door UN Security Council meeting, which was convened by Moscow to give Washington a chance to offer an explanation for the actions of its military.
However, instead of discussing the issue, US ambassador Samantha Power immediately left the room to address the press and accuse Russia of hypocrisy.
The US envoy to the UN spent some 30 seconds expressing “regret” over the unfortunate coalition airstrike that resulted in the loss of the lives of Syrian soldiers, and insisting that even if the ongoing investigation proves the US military is indeed to blame, it had never been their “intention” to strike Syrian military.
After that, Power spent the next 15 minutes slamming Moscow’s “uniquely hypocritical and cynical” attempt to make Washington explain itself at an urgent UNSC meeting.
“Why are we having this meeting tonight? It is a diversion from what is happening on the ground. If you don’t like what is happening on the ground then you distract. It is a magician’s trick… we encourage the Russian Federation to have emergency meetings with the Assad regime and deliver them to this deal,” said Samantha Power.
“What Russia is alleging tonight is that somehow the United States is undermining the fighting against ISIL. The Russian spokesperson even said that the United States might be complicit in this attack … this is not a game,” she added, before going into details of how Assad government is to blame for the dire situation in Syria.
US-led coalition jets have bombed Syrian government forces’ positions near the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor, killing 62 troops and “paving the way” for Islamic State militants, the Syrian Army General Command told the state television.
According to Syria’s official SANA news agency, the bombing took place on al-Tharda Mountain in the region of Deir ez-Zor and caused casualties and destruction on the ground.
Sixty-two Syrian soldiers were killed and over 100 injured in the airstrike by the US-led coalition, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, said, citing information received from the Syrian General Command.
“We are aware of the reports and checking with Centcom and CJTF (Combined Joint Task Force),” the Pentagon told RT.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that the aircraft which carried out the bombings had entered Syrian airspace from the territory of Iraq.
Four strikes against Syrian positions was performed by two F-16 jet fighters and two A-10 support aircraft, it added.
“If the airstrike was caused by the wrong coordinates of targets than it’s a direct consequence of the stubborn unwillingness of the American side to coordinate with Russia in its actions against terrorist groups in Syria,” Konashenkov stressed.
The Defense Ministry also confirmed a report by SANA that an Islamic State offensive began right after Syrian Army positions were hit from the air.
“Immediately after the airstrike by coalition planes, Islamic State militants launched their offensive. Fierce fighting with the terrorists is currently underway in the area of the airport where for a long a time humanitarian aid for civilians was parachuted,” Konashenkov said.
The Syrian General Command has called the bombing a “serious and blatant aggression” against Syrian forces, and said it was “conclusive evidence” that the US and its allies support IS militants.
Earlier on Saturday, Russia accused the US of being reluctant to take measures to force rebels under its control to fall in line with the terms of the Syrian ceasefire.
Numerous Russian appeals to the American side remain unanswered, which “raises doubts over the US’s ability to influence opposition groups under their control and their willingness to further ensure the implementation of the Geneva agreements,” senior Russian General Staff official, Viktor Poznikhir, said.
Poznikhir also said that the truce is being used by the militants to regroup, resupply and prepare an offensive against government troops.
Last week, Moscow and Washington agreed to influence the Syrian government and the so-called moderate rebel forces respectively in order to establish a ceasefire in the country.
Since then, Russia has repeatedly complained that the US is failing to keep its part of the bargain. The US, on its part, has blamed Russia for not pressuring Damascus enough to facilitate humanitarian access to Syria.
The US is still reluctant to take measures to force rebels under its control to implement the Syrian ceasefire, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, adding that if things do not change, Washington will be the sole side responsible for the failure of the truce.
“After five days of the ceasefire, it has to be noted that only the Russian and Syrian sides have been fully implementing their commitments. On its own initiative, Russia prolonged the cessation of hostilities for 48 hours, and yesterday it was extended for another 72 hours,” senior Russian General Staff official, Viktor Poznikhir, said at a briefing in Moscow.
But, according to Poznikhir, it is very different on the American side as “the US and the so-called moderate groups under their control didn’t fulfill a single commitment undertaken in the framework of the Geneva arrangements.”
The Russian official pointed out that “the main priority of the Russian-American agreements of September was the division of territories controlled by IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra, and the areas controlled by the ‘moderate opposition,’ as well the separation of the ‘moderate opposition’ from Jabhat al-Nusra.”
Such a division is essential for the implementation of the ceasefire in Syria because “without it, the hands of the government forces are tied. They can’t fight the terrorists without knowing which of them joined the truce and who didn’t,” he explained.
Numerous Russian appeals to the American side remain unanswered, which “raises doubts over the US’s ability to influence opposition groups under their control and their willingness to further ensure the implementation of the Geneva agreements.
“Russia is making every possible effort to hold off government troops from the use of force in return [to opposition attacks]. If the US does not implement the necessary measures to fulfill their obligations under the September 9 agreements, the responsibility for the failure of the ceasefire will be solely America’s,” Poznikhir said.
The inaction of the American side has already led to a worsening of the situation in Syria, the General Staff official stressed.
“Tensions are rising in Syria, especially in the provinces of Aleppo and Hama, where opposition groups are using the cessation of hostilities to regroup forces, refill their stocks of ammunition and weapons and are preparing an offensive in order to capture new territories,” he said.
“In the past 24 hours, the number of attacks has increased drastically. The positions of government troops, the people’s militia, and civilians were fired at on 55 occasions,” Poznikhir added.
Last week, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, agreed to influence the Syrian government and the so-called moderate rebel forces respectively in order to establish a ceasefire in the country.
Since then, Russia has repeatedly complained that the US is failing to keep its part of the bargain. While the US, on its part, blamed Russia for not pressuring Damascus enough to facilitate humanitarian access to Syria.
Lavrov talked to Kerry on the phone Saturday, urging Washington to start influencing the opposition in Syria in order to expand humanitarian access in the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The FM also called on the American side to actively participate in monitoring the Syrian ceasefire instead of merely accusing Syrian government forces of violations.
“Due to Washington’s continuing claims of ceasefire violations by the Syrian government forces, the Russian Foreign Minister urged them to go beyond accusations and to ensure the US military’s full-fledged participation in the ceasefire control mechanism created as far back as February and March and to take action against violations,” the ministry said in a statement.
Lavrov also stressed that “as result of Russia’s efforts, the issues of putting on track cooperation between the Syrian authorities and the United Nations in the area of broader humanitarian access are being solved, though not without difficulty.”
Insulting Barack Obama made the headlines, but Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks referred to a long and dark history of US interference in the Philippines.
Narendra Shresthma, Mast Irham/EPA
At a press conference at Davao International Airport on Monday, on his way to meet US President Barack Obama and other leaders attending the ASEAN summit, Duterte muttered a few short words in tagalog at the end of a lengthy and irritated reply to a local journalist. With those words, he again made international headlines.
What did Rodrigo Duterte call Barack Obama?
If that were all there was to it, we could rightly roll our eyes and move on. After all, Duterte’s language is vulgar; his slander of people and groups is liable to incite violence; and his determination to kill drug pushers (to fight “crime with crime”) an abuse of power. He should not be defended for any of this.
But as someone who has spent a long time studying US-Philippine relations, I think there’s something more for us to see here. And if we want to judge the Philippine president (and, by default, the nation for electing him) from high moral ground, I think we have a responsibility to pay attention to it.
Restoring an invisible history
Who is he to question me about human rights and extrajudicial killings?
So asked Duterte on Monday. It’s actually a very good question, and one long overdue from a Philippine president. The extent to which the violence of US relations with the Philippines has been made invisible by a history written predominantly by Americans themselves cannot be overstated.
It began with a three-year war (1899-1902) that most Americans have never heard of. The war overthrew a newly independent Philippine republic and cost between 250,000 and a million Filipino lives – only to be called “a great misunderstanding” by American colonial writers.
After all, the US had chosen the Philippines to be its great Asian “showcase of democracy”. The invasion was a benevolent act. Hence the complete erasure of acts of American violence from the Philippine national story.
You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to smell something rotten. Since the 1950s Philippine writers, academics, journalists and so on have been trying to reframe the historical narrative to point out this fact: to be invaded by a military power, told you don’t possess the character or capability for self-government, and then controlled by another nation for four decades, to the occupier’s lucrative commercial benefit, was not to be the recipient of a benevolent act.
Even at the time the war was taking place, one of America’s best-loved authors was writing just as much. Mark Twain was prolific in writing about the paradox of the “democratising mission” to the Philippines.
Penned in 1901, but still stunningly poignant, is this extract from his essay, To the Person Sitting in Darkness:
The Person Sitting in Darkness is almost sure to say: ‘There is something curious about this – curious and unaccountable. There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land.’
In America, these remain Twain’s least-known works.
Before his (now regretted) distasteful remark, Duterte had much to say in response to the question about being confronted over human rights in an upcoming meeting with Obama. He was responding to murmurs from critics that, if he wouldn’t listen to anyone else about the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, just wait until he meets the US president.
No-one seems to have listened to or cared much about the other six minutes of Duterte’s reply. So let me tell you something about it. It was a reclaiming of the historical narrative of Philippine-US relations, a holding up to the US of the hidden “looking glass” Mark Twain had written about 100 years earlier.
The Ardvaark/Wikipedia Commons
An assertion of independence
Calling out the hidden insinuations, as Duterte did, that the US continues to have authority over the politics of the Philippines, is bold and brazen, but reasonable. Consider his statement:
I am a president of a sovereign state. And we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master but the Filipino people.
These words are less evidence of his demagoguery or an intention to personally disparage Obama than a reference to history, and are more accurately read as such.
After the second world war, colonies of any sort, even the so-called “democratic” US one in the Philippines, were on the nose. But this didn’t stop Washington officialdom from continuing to claim the right of access to the Philippines’ political and economic realms.
When the US finally granted the Philippines its (second) independence in 1946, it required the new republic to amend its constitution so a bill could be passed that, as well as legislating preferential trade conditions for the US, would grant American citizens equal rights with Filipinos to Philippine natural resources. It was the beginning of a new phase: neocolonialism.
It was not just a matter of political interference and the power to make or break Philippine presidents with endorsement and strategic financial support. In a visceral sense, the nation was always being watched and judged by its democratic “teacher”.
Puck Magazine 1899
Asked about being confronted with human rights concerns by Obama, Duterte said:
You must be kidding. Who is he to confront me? America has one too many to answer for the misdeeds in this country … As a matter of fact, we inherited this problem from the United States. Why? Because they invaded this country and made us their subjugated people … Can I explain the extrajudicial killing? Can they explain the 600,000 Moro massacred in this island [Mindanao]? Do you want to see the pictures? Maybe you ask him. And make it public.
I’m reminded of a comment by Alicia Garza, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement ignited by police killings of black Americans. Speaking in Sydney last weekend at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, she related how, when civil rights protests get uncomfortably heated, she is often asked: “Why are they so angry?” She paused. Then softly giggled, giving the audience time for the ludicrousness of the question to sink in.
Why is the Philippines president so angry about the prospect of the US president confronting him about human rights abuses? History. As Duterte said himself on Monday, violent acts of the past don’t stay in the past. They get passed on from generation to generation, especially when the injustice goes unacknowledged and unaddressed.
It is difficult to stomach Duterte’s style. It certainly is difficult to look past the serious issues raised by his administration’s “war on drugs”. We should condemn his misuse of power.
But if we condemn the president for his recent remarks because we claim to be concerned about the rights of Filipinos while showing no interest in acknowledging the past crimes and injustices against the Philippines, we fall into our own sort of hypocrisy.
Let’s be honest, if Duterte didn’t curse and swear and offend our sensibilities, would we be paying so much attention to the Philippines? For once, I heard a Philippine president holding the US to account for all its doublespeak and hypocrisy in US-Philippine relations. And I couldn’t help but appreciate that.
Adele Webb, PhD Researcher, Department of Government and International Relations / Sydney Democracy Network, University of Sydney
Adele Webb does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.